SFFILM Festival Names 2024 Award Winners as San Francisco Makes Bid for Sundance

SFFILM has announced the winners of the juried Golden Gate Awards competition and the Audience Awards at the 67th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM Festival). The awards serve as a launching pad for internationally renowned filmmakers who are early in their careers, and they qualify films under 40 minutes for the Oscars. Past Golden Gate Award winners include Panah Panahi, Reid Davenport, Nadav Lapid, Marlon Riggs, Céline Sciamma, Jia Zhang-ke, Stanley Nelson, and Tasha Van Zandt.

This year, the 2024 SFFILM Festival ran five days from April 24 – 28 rather than its usual sprawling two weeks. The SFFILM board opted to pull back conservatively where others would have gone bigger to keep a more expansive footprint. Altogether they brought in 130 filmmakers this year, an excellent global selection of films despite the calendar disadvantage of being caught between Sundance and Cannes.

More from IndieWire

The big talk at this year’s SFFILM was the news that San Francisco put in a bid to host the Sundance Film Festival beginning 2027 as the festival considers options beyond Park City amid a looming contract renewal with the city.

SFFILM’s executive director Anne Lai said in a statement, “The San Francisco International Film Festival has only gotten stronger by innovating over the last few years. We just wrapped our most vibrant and successful festival since I arrived and accomplished it by presenting a discerning range of film talent and keeping our warm and sophisticated local audiences engaged. These two ingredients are the key to SFFILM and San Francisco’s longevity as a global arts and culture leader. To see Sundance Film Festival explore possibilities for a new home is exciting. Their continued success can only be good for the film industry at large. As we begin designing our 68th edition, I have only optimism for our festival’s future.”

Also at the SFFILM Festival, the Mel Novikoff Award honored Bay Area exhibitor and Landmark Theatres co-founder Gary Meyer in a conversation moderated by IndieWire Editor-at-Large Anne Thompson alongside a retrospective screening of Meyer-curated films. The Sloan Science in Cinema Award went to Tania Hermida’s “On the Invention of Species.” Anne Thompson also served as a member of the Narratives Jury.

The winners of the 67th Annual SFFILM Golden Gate Awards Competition are as follows. Language is courtesy of the festival.

Global Visions Award
“Great Absence”
Kei Chika-ura (Japan 2023)
US Premiere
Kei Chika-ura’s Great Absence is a sophisticated, well-crafted contemporary family drama about
reconciliation and love. Its delicate, restrained performances reveal intense anguish. This intricate,layered story moves through time and space as it ruminates on aging and the life cycle.

Documentary Award
Julian Brave NoiseCat, Emily Kassie (Canada 2024)
Sugarcane is an extraordinary investigative thriller, a personal odyssey, and a cathartic exposé of
the transgenerational impact of Canada’s residential schools. Julian Brave NoiseCat and Emily
Kassie’s sensitive collaboration is as much a cinematic condemnation of colonization and
complicity as it is a sobering yet celebratory reclamation of history, voice, and vision in the name
of healing, from one generation to the next.

Bay Area Documentary Award
“Seeking Mavis Beacon”
Jazmin Renée Jones (USA 2024)
For their boundary-pushing hybrid storytelling mixtape that reflectively looks at archive, digital
ancestors, and the intersection of fact and fiction, we honor director Jazmin Renée Jones and
Olivia McKayla Ross (associate producer and cyber doula) for Seeking Mavis Beacon with Best
Bay Area Documentary Feature. Multilayered and provocative, it is a technological, cultural, and
economic interrogation that is spirited and imaginative. Transparency, consent, and recognition
are as core to the storytelling as it is to the legacy they honor.

Narrative Short Award
“Bogotá Story”
Esteban Pedraza (Colombia 2023)
It is rare a film can be as transportive as this one and yet offer such deep empathy that it conjures
an imaginary but undeniable familiarity with its characters. For its precise craft, its beautiful
cinematography, and its incredible specificity of place and history, the jury awards Bogotá Story
with the Narrative Short Award.

Documentary Short Award
“The Medallion”
Ruth Hunduma (UK 2023)
This film impressed the jury with its ingenuity in form and deft navigations of scales—both
expansively sociological and intimately personal. The jury was energetically engaged by the
weave between gentleness and forcefulness this film achieved, and we applaud the ambition and
success of this complex conception. For its urgent story and warm heart, the jury awards The
Medallion with the Documentary Short Award.

Bay Area Short Award
“a film is a goodbye that never ends”
María Luisa Santos (Costa Rica 2024)
World Premiere
For it’s intimate portrayal of bonding and longing, keen eye for detail and texture, and poignant
meditation on the passage of time and existing in the ‘in between’ spaces, the jury is excited to
award María Luisa Santos with the Bay Area Shorts Prize for a film is a goodbye that never ends.

Animated Short Award
“La Perra”
Carla Melo Gampert (Colombia 2023)
With its visceral and deeply affecting exploration of parent-child relationships, sexuality, and grief,
La Perra beautifully paints an unsettling and universal coming-of-age story. Carla Melo Gampert’s
expressive, sketch-like, watercolor animation, and immersive, sensorial sound design, transports
audiences into a fantastical and deeply felt world that is entirely its own. The jury ecstatically
bestows La Perra with the Animated Short Award.

Family Film Award
“Dynasty and Destiny”
Travis Lee Ratcliff (USA 2024)
We found this touching, timely, and accessible story to be a true master class in documentary
filmmaking. It is evident in every frame how much thought and care was put into the film, from the
cinematography and editing to the music and storytelling. Dynasty & Destiny is a captivating
experience that deeply respects the relationship between its main characters as well as the
history and culture it explores.

Youth Works Award
Yezy Suh (USA 2023)
The jury was incredibly moved by Yezy Suh’s intimate exploration of family, culture, and self. Her
use of animation and personal family footage helps us see her family through her eyes, and
reminds us that our memories can bridge physical and cultural distance. Sil-tteu-gi is a beautiful
example of the power of personal expression and vulnerability. We cannot wait to see what Yezy
does next!

Audience Award: Narrative Feature
“The Teacher”
Farah Nabulsi (UK/Palestine/Qatar 2023)

Audience Award: Documentary Feature
“Agent of Happiness”
Arun Bhattarai, Dorottya Zurbó (Bhutan/Hungary 2024)

Honorable Mentions and Jury Recognition

Global Visions
“Empty Nets”
Behrooz Karamizade (Germany 2023)
Behrooz Karamizade’s compelling, propulsive romantic drama portrays a striving young
fisherman, who’s in love and desperately seeks to break from Iran’s harsh societal restraints, all as
his dreams and fantasies run up against the limits of the real world. We commend the filmmaker’s
insistence on telling his story with such frankness while navigating censorship and the
repercussions of making his film in Iran today.

New Director Jury Recognition
“Banel & Adama”
Ramata-Toulaye Sy (Senegal 2023)
A singular, genre-bending first feature crafted with powerful cinematography, Banel & Adama is a
feminist eco-drama set in a drought-ridden remote village. Filmmaker Ramata-Toulaye Sy mixes
magic imagery with the realities of a nomadic community as a young wife resists ancient
patriarchal superstitions.

Cine Latino Jury Recognition
Nara Normande, Tião (Brazil 2023)
US Premiere
Nara Normande and Tião’s Heartless is a powerful, unpredictable coming-of-age film about
identity, belonging, and desire. The film boasts a strong cast of young actors who portray an
eclectic group of friends across a socioeconomic spectrum. The film is punctuated with striking
vignettes of passion and compassion, family bonding, and beach life. The end-of-summer bliss
foreshadows a darker reality of homophobia, racism, and violence.

Documentary Honorable Mention
“Black Box Diaries”
Shiori Ito (Japan 2024)
We recognize with an honorable mention, director Shiori Ito’s Black Box Diaries and the
extraordinary artistry, journalistic integrity, and unflagging courage to push her story through. For
this to be her first foray into the art of fusing rigorous visual journalism with first-person
documentary-making is a monumental act worthy of our notice, gratitude, and cheering on.

Family Film Honorable Mention
Loïc Espuche (France 2024)
We were charmed by this film’s ability to capture the universal experience of coming of age. Yuck!
portrays moments of curiosity and discovery in a thoughtful and authentic way, all while honoring
the innocence of childhood.

Youth Works Honorable Mention
“Gentle Breeze”
Wenwei Hu (China 2023)
North American Premiere
Gentle Breeze is a visually stunning film that celebrates kindness and unexpected bonds. The jury
was touched by Wenwei Hu’s wonderful film and commends his efforts!

Best of IndieWire

Sign up for Indiewire's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.